When I got back into the car, I had two thoughts: 1) the most bizarre things happen to me and 2) now that’s a man of conviction. I wrestled with the latter all afternoon.
I was leaving Hobby Lobby after grabbing a few things for work. It’s pretty obvious I have a leg/foot issue, as I sorta limp, but I was wearing ballet flats so I otherwise looked normal. Hobby Lobby was busy; school was out and lots of people were off work due to the holiday. He was walking into the store but approached me and asked if I had a hurt foot. I told him I had a broken leg. He asked if he could pray for me, then started to tell me how powerful prayer was. He knew people who had been miraculously cured after being prayed for. Complete healing. Would I be willing to have him pray over me?
Awkward? Sure. We stepped to the side out of the way of traffic, near a lady who was loading her Christmas ornaments into her trunk. I figured she thought he was nuts and I was nuts for allowing a nut to be near me. But what was the harm?
He asked if I minded if he touched my arm while he prayed. I didn’t mind. I know how powerful touch can be when prayer is involved.
His prayer was sincere and short. When he finished, I told him thank you and called him by his name. We smiled and started to go our seperate ways when he asked me, “Did you feel anything? While I was praying? Does it feel better? Or healed?”
It didn’t, but I told him that was okay. I appreciated the prayer regardless.
Prayer is an important part of anyone’s relationship with God. It’s how we communicate. You don’t have to find a chapel or prayer room to pray. You don’t have to close your eyes. You don’t need to throw in big seminary words, or “thus” or “thou” either. But I do think you should approach God with reverence and an open spirit, willing to change.
Led prayer is something we church goers participate in all the time. It’s not your words being said – it is someone else’s dialogue with God that you’re included in. It’s someone else praying on your behalf, or directing your focus, or – in my case – praying over you. And while it’s way too easy to let your mind wander to something else during led prayer, if we can take time to really focus on the words being said it’s pretty touching. At the very core, aren’t we joining in on a conversation someone else is having with God?
Those of us in the moderate world get a little gun shy around “spirit led” prayer. Or, perhaps we could call it, unrehearsed prayer. We cling to the prayers of church fathers and mothers. Refer often to the book of common prayer. Carefully script prayers that will be said in public forums. I fall into that, too. Nothing makes me more anxious than being called on to pray. Will I stumble over my words? What if I forget someone? Do I sound – gulp – smart enough? I mean, these people know I have an MDiv! My prayer may sound great, but it’s rarely sincere. And while my previously written prayer may have been written from a heart of prayer at the time, it may or may not be sincere by the time I lead my congregation in it.
The man in the parking lot didn’t have a written prayer. Though there is no doubt in my mind he has done this before, it sounded far from rehearsed. Would someone who stopped people in a public parking lot, in order to simply pray for them, be anything but sincere? Perhaps. It could/would/has made a great evangelism tool. A way to suck someone in. I’m not a fan of that kind of evangelism but with this man, there were no strings attached. I wasn’t handed anything. I wasn’t invited to a church service. I knew nothing other than his first name. It was simply prayer.
When was the last time I prayed over and for someone like that? Not meaning in a parking lot (because I’m pretty sure I’ve never done that before) but just offered an unrehearsed and unplanned prayer for someone obviously in need? Someone who stumbles across my path?
I don’t believe prayer is magic. I don’t believe someone can be prayed over in a parking lot and walk away healed. But I do believe intervening on someone’s behalf is Biblical. I do believe God was pleased to see two of his followers stopping for prayer in the middle of the Hobby Lobby parking lot. I do believe the man went away blessed, knowing he touched the life of a stranger. And I know that I went away blessed, knowing a brother in Christ cared enough about his neighbor to take the huge risk of stopping them in a parking lot to pray. No strings attached.
Do I love my neighbor that much?
Somedays I wonder if I really do take that commandment seriously enough.
But this man did. And he lived it.